The Pitt Panthers return to the Petersen Events Center Saturday afternoon hosting Sacred Heart. Pitt snapped a five-game winning streak Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee to SEC foe Vanderbilt.
The Panthers are home for two non-conference games before facing the heart of ACC play.
Here are five things to know ahead of Pitt’s (6-4) matchup against the Sacred Heart Pioneers (5-5) of the NEC.
Dior Johnson Faces One Year of Probation
Johnson pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges Friday morning in light of a domestic abuse incident in September. Johnson was charged with misdemeanor strangulation and simple assault and was sentenced to one year of probation. He initially faced six charges including felony strangulation with four of the charges dropped at his preliminary hearing on Oct. 20.
“Judge [Jill] Rangos has a reputation for being firm and fair and I think she was both today,” Johnson’s attorney, Robert Delgreco, told reporters including PSN’s George Michalowski. “I think the one-year probation is a fair sentence, the conditions were standard with either batterers’ intervention or the equivalent.”
Johnson will have no further contact with the victim and Delgreco said Johnson has not been in contact with her. He was indefinitely suspended from the program following the charges. Pitt released a statement regarding Johnson following the news:
“Pitt continues to follow University and athletic department protocols regarding Dior Johnson’s suspension. All parties continue to work through the process and will not comment until additional steps have been completed.”
Beat by Their Own Game
The 2022-23 campaign for the Panthers has been defined by defensive tenacity and rebounding the basketball effectively. Pitt did not do enough in either category to defeat Vanderbilt. Vandy out-rebounded Pitt 37-25 and a dominant 17-5 on the offensive glass. 14 turnovers did not help the cause either. Vanderbilt smothered Pitt in the paint, out-scoring the Panthers 30-12 and blocking 12 shots.
“In the first half, we had 11 turnovers and they had 11 offensive rebounds,” head coach Capel said after the game. “They were shooting around 37% from the field, so our first shot defense was good. We did all those things, but turnovers and 11 offensive rebounds meant they were able to stay in the game… That’s the first time that we’ve been in a position where we’ve gotten outrebounded like that.”
The Commodores entered the game tied for 346th in free-throw percentage (61.7%) and a foul with less than three seconds remaining put Tyrin Lawrence on the line in a position to win it if he hit both. Lawrence sunk both shots and Vandy survived by one. Pitt had chances to win and rallied late to take the lead before Vanderbilt’s final possession. John Hugely did not record a rebound, his second-straight game not totaling a board. He totaled only two three games ago.
Pioneer to Pittsburgh
Sacred Heart played a fast-paced offense able to score in bunches but has faltered lately. The Pioneers make the trip to Pittsburgh on a two-game losing streak, scoring 59 points in losses to Massachusetts-Lowell and Fairfield. SHU ranks tied for 38th in average points per game (72.3) and tied for 85th in steals (8.3). Hailing from the Northeast Conference, Sacred Heart places at No. 294 on the Kenpom.com ratings.
The Pioneers have played decently on the road to a 3-3 mark. They turn the ball over, on average, 12 times a game, roughly two fewer occasions than Pitt (13.8). Pitt could get back to its game of physical defense, pressure in the paint, and effective rebounding on both ends to bounce back. Sacred Heart averages 32.6 rebounds and 8.4 on the offensive glass compared to Pitt’s 35.5 and 9.4, respectively.
Sacred Heart’s offense is powered by forward Nico Galette, starting all 10 games to lead the team in points (16.4), blocks (1.2), and usage percentage (29.1%). Eight players consistently see the floor including guard Joey Riley, scoring 11.3 points while shooting 42.9% from three and 91.3% at the free-throw line. Forward Bryce Johnson will play an important factor down low, averaging 7.9 rebounds to pace the Pioneers.
Pitt is favored by 16.5 points in Saturday’s latest odds, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. The line has remained steady since opening but did reach 17.5 points on The Score.
The Panthers are 5-3-1 ATS this year, according to Covers.com, and covered the past five games in a row against Fairleigh Dickinson, William & Mary, Northwestern, NC State, and Vanderbilt The Pioneers are 5-4 ATS and the over has been reached in four opportunities.
The over/under for the game is set at 149 points. Pitt is -1800 on the money line with Sacred Heart the underdogs at +1000. The over has hit in six of the Panthers’ nine games and reached the plateau on Wednesday.
Broadcast, Radio Info
The Pitt-Sacred Heart game will air on the ACC Network beginning at 3:30 p.m. Derek Jones and David Padgett have the call from the Petersen Events Center. The game can also be heard live on sports radio 93.7 The Fan.
Five of Pitt’s next six games will be played at The Pete. The Panthers face North Florida next Saturday at 1 p.m. airing on the ACC Network.